Lessons In Cool: Being John Wayne
by Dessert First & Tesla

Oz sits in the school courtyard sizing up his options. He could go to class, and feel several useful parts of his mind atrophy and blow away, or he could go out to the van with Devon to smoke a joint and get rid of them the fun way.

He'd like to begin again. He'd like not to feel ownership of Devon, who could not be owned. He'd like to not have agreed to babysit Jordy. He'd like for his aunt and uncle to have warned him that Jordy was a werewolf. Which totally explained the chains in the spare room, but at the time, he'd just thought he'd discovered some sad, middle- aged kink.

He'd like to begin again. He'd like not to count his grievances against his family and friends, like to be the cool dude Xander Harris thought he was. Like not to have scared off Willow, made her jittery and worried.

He'd like to begin again, and find someone to love him.


Xander should be in class, no argument there. But Willow will be there, and Buffy, and Cordelia, and there has to be some kind of limit to how crap a guy can be made to feel in one day, even if he really, really deserves it. He takes the long way around, delaying the inevitable, soaking up a little sun in the courtyard.

Where Oz sits, since it would appear there is no limit after all, and you can always manage to feel just a little more like crap.

Because Oz looks like Oz should never have to look, and what kind of person does that to someone they consider a friend? And it's not like Xander has that many guy friends to begin with, or any at all, really, but that's not even the point. The point is Oz, looking small and a little lost, sitting in the courtyard, and Xander is the King of Cretins for having anything at all to do with that. And hell, he's already had his apologies shot down by Cordy and Willow, already swallowed enough of his pride that going up to Oz shouldn't be so hard. Saying what needs to be said to clear the air and let Oz get on with hating Xander, maybe punch him again if that's what it takes. There's got to be something, anything, to be done that will come close to fixing this, and even if Xander has no idea what it is, he knows he's willing to do it. He just has to... go up there and do it.

"So here's the thing," he tells a startled Oz as he sits next to him on the bench. "Sometimes a man has to be a man, and do what's... manly. And sometimes the manly thing to do is to just be a man and admit that you're..."

"Pond scum?" Oz offers.

"Not really what I was going for there, but thanks."

"You know, people badmouth pond scum a lot, and that has a nice ring to it, but when you think about it? Not so bad. It's just leaves and mud and decaying things. Natural."

Xander blinks. "Um, is that your way of telling me you don't want to hear my apology? 'Cause I have notes." He fishes the crumpled up, scribbled-on cafeteria napkin he's been carrying around for the past two weeks out of his pocket.

Several years pass by as Oz considers this. "No," he says finally. "I don't."

"Oh." Xander shifts uncomfortably. "Well then... I got nothing, actually. Guess I'll just--" He gets up, face flaming, backs away. Stops. Turns around. "Okay," he says, because if he's going to be a man about this, he'll be the goddamned John Wayne of apologies. "So what do you want?"

Oz looks surprised to be asked. "I just... I just want to sit here for a while."

Xander nods.

"You can sit, too."

And Xander may be King of Cretins and a lousy John Wayne, but he's not so blind he can't see what Oz is offering.

He sits.


Oz takes a breath. It goes all right, so he takes another. He didn't know when that got so difficult. When talking got so difficult. It's not that he has nothing to say, or that he doesn't want to talk, but usually, he's so interested in watching everyone else that he forgets to talk.

Okay, and that kind of makes Xander a little nervous, Oz knows. During the day, even when the moon is hidden, there's still a little of the wolf. Smelling, noticing, vibrating in the back of his throat. So the wolf knows that Xander is a friend, but Xander is still a little cautious around Oz.

Jeeze, Oz is doing it again, with the jittery-making. He looks sideways at Xander. "Notes, huh? That's cool."

Xander nods, his fingers pleating and straightening out the paper napkin. "Yeah, I wanted to hit all the themes. Spent all my money on flowers, then Cordy put the ashes of her pictures of me in an envelope and stuck it in my locker. So that didn't work."

Oz shakes his head. "Too bad. I like flowers."

"Well, I obviously spent my money on the wrong person," Xander says, relaxing a little.

"Yeah, maybe. Never got any flowers. Well, some buds, once, but I don't think Devon really meant to leave them."

"Yeah, well, any particular kinds? Because in the world of pain that is Xanderland, it's good to pre-plan your apologies."

Oz laughs, and Xander's shoulders drop even more.

"No, man. It's... look, we're good. We'll always be good," Oz says, surprising himself. Where did that come from? Xander is putting away his napkin, starting to pick up his bookbag, and Oz doesn't want him to go.

Why is this so hard?


Xander's bag feels a lot lighter when he shoulders it, for some reason. The rest of the week, Oz's words stay with him. He braves class on the premise that late is, indeed, better than never, faces the women in his life and survives, grovels some more, if pointlessly, and survives that, too.

Willow is still sad and guilty and avoid-y, Buffy is still vaguely sympathetic but not really, and Cordelia... it's best not to think too much about Cordelia.

All week Xander watches Oz, covertly, out of the corner of his eye. Oz becomes an oasis in the middle of Xander's day, a cool respite whenever Xander catches a glimpse of him. He can't figure how it is that Oz would be okay with him after what he did--he doesn't even know how much Oz knows. Maybe you can excuse some schmuck kissing your girlfriend if he thinks he's going to die, but for months beforehand?

It's a week later when it clicks: Oz is waiting for something. Xander isn't sure what, but when he realizes it, it seems ridiculously obvious. Devon, the Dingoes, and the rest of Oz's non-Scoobie friends drift in and out of the periphery, Willow is still firmly yet politely kept at a distance, and Oz seems to spend a lot of time sitting around and just... waiting. Not even picking at his guitar so much, anymore.

And Xander can't help but wonder what it is Oz is waiting for. Full moon comes, and with it wolfiness and angst. Everyone seems oddly relieved when Xander volunteers for all three nights of wolf-sitting. He does not fall asleep this time; he brings a book and reads to Oz instead, wondering about wolfthoughts. He reads the Ozwolf comic books on the third night, brings his favorites and holds them up so the wolf can look at the illustrations, Superman and kryptonite and it looks like Oz was right about the red kind, after all. Xander will have to tell him that when Oz wakes up in the morning.

Which it suddenly is, and Oz is pale and naked and sleepy, but it's early and the swinging library doors are locked, so it's okay. Which is good, because it's been a long night and Xander is sleepy, too.


Oz wakes up behind the modesty blanket, blinking. It's never great waking up on the cold linoleum, but the wolf just likes lying on it, belly down. Oz can't remember much beyond sense memories, after he's back in his original skin. Scents, tastes, the smooth coolness of the floor; Xander's voice.

Huh. Xander's voice all night.

Oz would kind of like to hear that when he was, well, all there. He pulls on his clothes and moves around in circles.

Xander opens the cage door. "Hi, guy, looking for something?"

"Yeah. No. I don't know. Did I bring anything else in?"

"No, your other stuff is out here. Hey, guess what? You were right about the red kryptonite."

Oz can't remember what the discussion was right now, his head is fuzzy. He guesses he didn't sleep much. The wolf does that to him sometimes. "Good to know," he says, looking up at Xander. He yawns, and steps outside, still very not with it.

"Here's your stuff," Xander points. He's packing up Superman comic books into his bookbag.

The library is dim, and there's an early morning feeling to the place. Xander has turned off the lights, and sunshine is just beginning to come in through the windows.

"So," Oz says, picking up his jacket, "you up for some pancakes? My treat."

Xander smiles, widely. "Those, my good friend, are always the magic words." He pulls on his windbreaker and settles the strap of his bookbag over his shoulder. He stands there for a moment, then says, "Oz?"

Oz looks at him, puzzled.

Xander nods at the jacket. "Gonna put that on?"

"Oh." But Oz still stands there, feeling all sleep-stoned, until Xander moves, like he's about to come over and find the armhole for Oz like a kindly babysitter, and Oz shakes it off and puts on his coat.


"--you get used to one illustrator, and then it changes. I'm not so thrilled with the more cartoony aspects. I like 'em looking human." Xander is putting away a stack of blueberry pancakes with horrible efficiency.

Oz draws lines with his fork through the congealed syrup on his plate. "Except for the consistent lack of male genitalia. I always thought that was disturbing."

"Well, yeah. On the other hand, lots of female--" the waitress comes by to top off their coffee cups, and Xander's thought is lost as he shuts up in deference to her cheery morning chirping.

Oz looks over across the table at Xander. He leans his chin on his hand, his forehead furrowing in five lines. Oz wonders, why five? And then he's looking at Xander's wide shoulders, and wishes he could put his head on one of them and go to sleep.


Oz looks sleepy and peaceful and there, and it hits Xander just as he's polishing off the last bite of syrup-drenched pancake that he doesn't look like he's waiting any more.


Xander finds himself beginning to wonder about Oz. The pitch of his voice is interesting, the shape of his eyes, the color of his hair, the almost freakish pallor of his skin. Oz gleams when he's outdoors, the light just bouncing off him. When Xander finds himself pondering about the texture of Oz's lips, he thinks it might be time to stop pretending. Oz catches him looking and just meets his gaze, serene but with just an edge of something hungry ravenous eat you up not as unexpected as he'd have thought, and maybe just a little bit lonely familiar, both gone almost as quickly as they appear. When Oz lets his fingers linger a little too long on Xander's as they both go for the computer classroom's doorknob, Xander knows it's definitely time to stop pretending.

Look where that's got him in the past.

No, Xander is a man of action now. A man's man. Xander will be John freaking Wayne about this if it kills him.


John Wayne probably never felt this silly, standing outside someone's house in the wee hours of a Saturday night, holding a bunch of daffodils.

Of course, John Wayne probably never did it in front of a guy's house, but still.

The lights are all out, and Xander debates the stupidity of the impulse that struck him after patrol. If one chooses to call a carefully plotted and agonized over for a week plan an impulse, which Xander does. Makes him seem all spontaneous and breezy. Xander can do breezy. Not too breezy, of course, because that leads to the soul crushing pain and impalement of the people he loves, but maybe some breeziness on occasion can be a good thing.

If he plans for it first.

He stands on the sidewalk, staring at the house. Only the van is in the driveway, so it's a safe bet Oz's parents are still out of town. Of course, it helps that Devon let slip, upon Xander's subtle and seamless cross-examination, that Oz's parents would be out of town. And that Travis the drummer and Eddie the bassist confirmed that intel, upon further incisive sleuthing over a few sodas and a joint.

So Xander is pretty sure there's no real reason for him to still be here, rocking back on his heels on the sidewalk, looking up at the dark, peaceful house. Holding daffodils.

Intel revealed Oz thought daffodils were "interesting." Xander hopes that means he thinks they're pretty. They could possibly be construed as a manly kind of flower, couldn't they?

Xander takes a deep breath.

He's going to do this.


Funny, he would have thought Oz would be the kind of guy who'd lock his windows. He's alone, it's night, it's Sunnydale, for heaven's sake. Oz is in bed, bare-chested, sheets rumpled and small pale feet sticking out of his pajama bottoms, sprawled over more room than you'd think a guy that size would take up. Xander looks around for a place to put the flowers, sticks them in a handy water glass on the cluttered desk, wipes suddenly sweaty hands on his jeans.

Walks over to the bed.

He watches Oz silently for a minute, filling his eyes, until he finally sits on the edge of the bed and puts his hand on Oz's wrist. "Hey," he says softly.


Oz had been longing for rest the way the wolf longed for wide open sky. Instead, he had stumbled through school and rehearsals, doing laundry and going to the food co-op for, well, food.

So it's got to be a dream, when he smells Xander in his room. When the mattress dips down at Oz's hip, and he feels a touch on his hand. It's a dream, and Oz knows it is, because why would Xander be in his room? Oz turns his hand under Xander's, and entwines their fingers. "Hey," he says, smiling. Light from the street lamp shines through the window, and Oz sees Xander's expression smooth out.

"Shouldn't leave the window unlocked," Xander says. "Especially being by yourself. This is Sunnydale, you know." Xander's forehead is doing that five line thing, like an I Ching reading, but he squeezes Oz's hand.

"You couldn't've come in if I locked it," Oz tells him, dreamily regarding Xander's eyes, black in the half-light of his bedroom. "Glad to see you."

Xander's forehead smoothes. "Are you?"

Oz's thumb strums the back of Xander's hand like he's chording. "Yeah. Always am, man. Listen, you're not a dream, are you?"


"Well, my French teacher says I'm her worst nightmare, but I get a sense that's not where you were going there. So, uh, no. One hundred percent real live Xander, here. That okay with you?"

Oz frowns, rubs his hand over his eyes. "Depends. You here to apologize again?"

"I can honestly say that's not what I had in mind, no."

A slight tilt to one coppery eyebrow, a tiny lift to the corner of his mouth. "Oh."

Xander suddenly finds the Dingoes poster on the wall above Oz's bed incredibly fascinating. "Yeah."

A calloused hand settles over Xander's own. "Okay," Oz says.

There's a weird sort of pressing sensation going on smack in the middle of Xander's chest. He leans in, brushes his lips against Oz's. They feel as soft as he remembers, and when he pulls away to look at Oz in the thin glow streaming in from the streetlights, Oz's eyes are wide, the green almost swallowed up by black. He is short of breath, red-gold hair pillow-mussed, and there is a crease in his cheek from the bedsheets.

He is beautiful.

Xander kisses him again, deepening the kiss this time, savoring that Ozflavor, seeing how it compares to memory. Reality is miles away from that, and he pulls Oz closer, cradles his head with one hand, swipes his tongue along Oz's upper lip and delves in when he feels Oz open to him. Oz feels delicious, sleep-warm and pliant, and Xander just wants to gather him up and stay in this room, in this bed, forever, lying back with him to watch the pasted-on constellations glow on the ceiling.

He scoots further onto the bed and Oz makes room for him, never breaking the hold his arms have taken up around Xander's neck. Xander folds his body onto the mattress, his own arms going around Oz's body, and keeps on kissing. They end up on their sides facing each other, Oz throwing a leg over Xander's hip to draw him in further.


Oz can't make up his mind whether he wants to turn the bedside light on or not, because he really wants to see the brown of Xander's eyes. One of them would have to let go of the other, though, so that's not an option. It feels too good to have someone bigger than him holding him again.

Xander is grinning lopsidedly at Oz, looking at him like he did that summer afternoon. Like Oz is brilliant, like Oz is irresistible. He parts his lips to speak, but Oz is fast when he has to be, and Oz kisses Xander, pulling his face to his. It's slow, and careful at first. Then, all the remaining tension finally goes out of Xander's body, his shoulders loosen up, and his arms mold themselves around Oz as they deepen the kiss.

Xander opens his mouth more, and his tongue pushes into Oz's. Xander's more confident than he used to be, and one of his hands is on Oz's back, tracing a line with two fingers down Oz's spine, and Oz shivers.

"Cold?" Xander murmurs, and grins again.

"I was," Oz says, and pushes Xander back, so he can kiss Xander's eyelids.

Xander's skin is tanned, even in this light, and his mouth is smile- ready even now. Oz licks the tiny smile lines that bracket Xander's mouth, and feels them crease under his tongue. They lie in each other's arms, languidly kissing and stroking. Xander keeps running his palm down the outside of Oz's leg from hip to knee. Oz thinks how simple it is when they just let their bodies talk to each other.


Xander's spent a lot of time not thinking about last summer's thing with Oz, but clearly it was all lurking somewhere in the back of his mind, because his body remembers this. Kissing Oz, breathing him in, running his hands over his small, tight body, it's almost like coming home. Soothing. Oz is melting like cool lemon candy.

He tries to speak, but his mouth is full of Oz's tongue, and that seems just fine, just great, in fact, so Xander decides to try sucking on it for a while. That makes Oz whimper, and Xander's body pings at hearing that sound again. Oz, man. Oz. Oz on him, in him, around him, pushing his groin against Xander's, caging him in with wiry arms and legs, mouths fused together and who needs to breathe, really?

That philosophy lasts about a second longer before Xander rips his mouth away, gasping.

Oz moans in protest, but obligingly stays on his side, his wide, glassy eyes tracking Xander, waiting for him to come back. He keeps his mouth parted, panting, and darts out a wicked little tongue, running it over his lower lip. Xander can't help a little whimper of his own at that, and he's drawn in all over again. He kisses Oz fervently, pushing his tongue into the welcoming mouth, letting it roam around and get to know the territory all over again. Yes, here is the spot at the roof of Oz's mouth that he likes to have licked. Here is the soft underside of his tongue, the smooth billowy walls of his cheeks. Here is that nameless Oz-flavor again, musky and weedy and sweet. Xander runs the tip of his tongue along Oz's teeth and feels that wiry body tighten as Oz struggles not to bite. Xander does it for him, backs away and sinks his teeth into the meat of Oz's shoulder, feels him jerk and gasp and grab Xander's hair, pressing him further into Oz's warm, sweet-smelling skin. Xander breathes him in and smiles.

This feels like coming home.


Oz remembers this, remembers this boy in his arms, remembers his tongue, Xander touching him all the right ways, all the ways that make him hot and hard. He palms Xander's broad shoulders, swimmer's shoulders and back, feeling the swell of muscle that Xander conceals with his baggy shirts. When Oz draws circles in the small of Xander's back, Xander sighs into Oz's skin and presses himself closer, like before. When their erections meet, it's electric, even through the layers of their clothes. Like before.

Oz slides his hands along Xander's waist and unbuttons his jeans. Xander's face is in the crook of Oz's neck, and Oz feels his smile. "This okay?" Oz breathes.

"Oh, yeah," Xander says. He leans away and pulls his shirt and undershirt off in one motion, tossing them, inside out, on the floor, and by the time Oz has kissed his belly and unzipped his jeans, Xander has kicked off his shoes.

Oz has to smile at how quickly they get down to it, and he wants to get down to it in the worst way, gets his mouth and hand on Xander's cock and that hot velvety smoothness and the smell belonging to Xander alone. He takes long smooth pulls at it as he tongues the head, and Xander very gratifyingly bucks his hips and Oz feels like something, some ache, some blockage of true feeling, has dissolved and all there is, is them on Oz's bed like survivors of a shipwreck on a raft. Oz can imagine the sea swelling gently as he rocks back and forth, sucking and sliding and moving up and down, and he feels like he could float forever.


Oh, god, it's not possible, is it, for Oz's mouth to actually feel as good as Xander remembered? He'd been sure that much had been the embellishing effects of memory, but.

He'd been wrong.

Gloriously, wonderfully, fantastically wrong. Oz's lips are tight around him, his tongue quick and clever, his fingers firm against him in justthatspot behind Xander's balls and it's all. Too. Much.

He comes calling Oz's name, and when he opens his eyes again Oz is looking at him wide-eyed. Xander can't... he doesn't... unbidden, his hand rises up to cradle Oz's cheek, and Oz turns his face into the gesture, shadowed eyes sliding closed. Xander rubs a thumb over Oz's swollen lower lip, the pad of his thumb sliding slickly over the wet surface.

Oz doesn't lean forward for a kiss, or pull away, or demand a blowjob of his own. He just lets Xander keep on quietly cradling his face, and maybe for the first time in his life Xander doesn't feel like he needs to say anything.


They stay like that for a while, Xander on his back, Oz propped up on his elbows to look at him, Xander's hand cupping Oz's cheek and Oz never would have imagined...

Or perhaps he'd imagined all too well.

Then Xander smiles a little, and his other hand brushes against the inside of Oz's thigh, making him shiver. "My turn," Xander says, and Oz nearly loses it right there.

He and Xander roll on their sides, still looking into each other's eyes, Xander's large hand settling on Oz's cock, and it feels amazingly good. Xander's hand is larger, familiar and unfamiliar and there, and Oz is thinking that he has forgotten how to breathe.

Breath is over-rated, because Xander isn't doing too well with that, either, and Oz has to grin at himself, at them, and Xander's eyebrow arches. Hey, what's so funny? his eyebrows telegraph in mock annoyance and Oz grins wider.

With a deep huh of breath, Xander rolls over on Oz, his mouth claiming Oz's, and their cocks and hands are rubbing together and Oz feels like he's going up the long steep slope of a roller coaster, and the feeling just keeps ascending. Because it's Xander, not just the friction of skin on skin, or the scents of sweat and pre-come and saliva, not just that.

It's the emotions pouring off Xander, the want and need and determination, and Oz gets one hand up and palms Xander's nape. Xander lifts his mouth from Oz's and, gentler, kisses Oz's eyelids, just like he did that first and only time they were together.

And the roller coaster hits the top of the slope.


Oz is writhing now, squirming, rubbing himself shamelessly into Xander's hand and Xander can't believe how good it feels. He kisses Oz's eyelids again, buries his face in Oz's rough-soft hair, the crook of his neck, enjoys the smell of him. He tightens his grip on Oz's erection and is rewarded with a strangled growl.

Oh yeah. Xander's getting the hang of this.

He varies speed and pressure, experiments with finger placement, toys with the occassional flick of a fingernail and gauges each response elicited. When Oz comes, it's with a gasp and an urgent yank on the nape of Xander's neck, drawing him down into a hungry kiss for Oz to scream into.

They just lie there afterwards, tangled together, sweaty, sticky, spent. Xander drifts, his gaze idly wandering over the patterns of the glow-in-the-dark constellations pasted onto Oz's ceiling. Oz fits perfectly into the curve of Xander's arm, and Xander fits perfectly in the warm cocoon of Oz's bed, and that's what do you call it.


Oz shifts and blinks, and when he looks at Xander it's like someone turned the lights back on in the room. Oh hell yeah. Xander is definitely getting the hang of this.


Xander moans protestingly when Oz gets up to pad naked across the room, but relaxes when he sees Oz grab a towel and head back to the bed, absently wiping it across his abdomen. A glimpse of something yellow lit by the watery bit of dawn filtering in catches his eye, and Oz frowns.

There are flowers in his water glass.

"You brought me flowers?" Oz considers them, head tilted, and blinks at the unexpectedness. "Daffodils. Pretty cool. With the symbolism and everything." He sets them on top of his bookcase, and turns to see Xander, looking anxious.

"Symbolism?" Xander asks. "I just thought they were pretty."

Oz lies down on the hopelessly rumpled bed and curls back up into Xander. "Yeah. They are. There's a whole Greek myth about 'em, but mostly they mean, uh, hope."

Xander seems to ponder that, the five lines re-appearing on his forehead. Oz wonders, for just a moment, if he was that far wrong when he first woke up to Xander's hand on his wrist, thinking this was a dream. He reaches for Xander's hand, brushing his fingertips along the long strong fingers to reassure himself. "It's really cool."

Xander's hand turns under his, and their fingers entwine.

"You brought me flowers," Oz repeats. He grins.

"Well, you said no one had," Xander says, "So I thought, you know, innovative." He uses his other hand to push back the sweaty strands of black hair, and in the soft dawn light Oz can see that the five lines are mostly gone. The grip on Oz's fingers is suddenly tight, and Xander's voice is different when he speaks. "Do you... do you think we could do this?" he asks. "For real?"

There are way too many answers to that and Oz can't begin to figure out what to say. He wants to say he always thought they could, but the truth is he'd, well. His gaze falls on the daffodils. "I'd hoped."


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